Drowning Country: Tuvalu Symbol of Catastrophe and Hope

Tiny Tuvalu Fights for Its Literal Survival
By Stephen Leahy


Funafuti atoll seen from 125 miles above the Eart

VIENNA, Jul 27 (IPS/IFEJ) – The second smallest nation on Earth hopes to turn itself into an example of sustainable development that others can emulate.

But the South Pacific island nation of Tuvalu and its 10,500 people may only have 50 years or less to set that example before it is swept away by rising sea levels due to climate change.

“Construction of the first ever biogas digestor on a coral island is complete,” said Gilliane Le Gallic, president of Alofa Tuvalu, a Paris-based group that is working with the local Tuvaluan government.

Located on a small islet near Tuvalu’s capital of Funafuti, the biogas digester uses manure from about 60 pigs to produce gas for cooking stoves. More importantly, more than 40 Tuvaluans have been trained at the newly opened Tuvalu National Training Centre on renewable energy.

“We are trying to create simple, workable models of sustainable development that can be reproduced by others elsewhere,” Le Gallic, a documentary filmmaker, told IPS from Paris.

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Overweight? Hungry? Blame “Hollow Food”

New Studies Back Benefits of Organic Diet: Conventional agriculture produces “hollow food”, with low levels of nutrients and vitamins

wheat harvest sml

By Stephen Leahy

TORONTO, Canada, Mar 4, 2006 (Tierramérica)

(Originally published in 2006, two authoritative 2007 studies with similar findings are referenced at the end)

Organic foods protect children from the toxins in pesticides, while foods grown using modern, intensive agricultural techniques contain fewer nutrients and minerals than they did 60 years ago, according to two new scientific studies.

A U.S. research team from Emory University in Atlanta analysed urine samples from children ages three to 11 who ate only organic foods and found that they contained virtually no metabolites of two common pesticides, malathion and chlorpyrifos. However, once the children returned to eating conventionally grown foods, concentrations of these pesticide metabolites quickly climbed as high as 263 parts per billion, says the study published Feb. 21 (2006).

Organic crops are grown without the chemical pesticides and fertilisers that are common in intensive agriculture.There was a “dramatic and immediate protective effect” against the pesticides while consuming organically grown foods, said Chensheng Lu, an assistant professor at the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University.

These findings, in addition to the results of another study published in Britain earlier this month, have fueled the debate about the benefits of organically grown food as compared to conventional, mass-produced foods, involving academics, food and agro-industry executives and activists in the global arena.

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Carbon Project Endangers the Galápagos


By Stephen Leahy

A company is preparing to enrich seawater with iron in order to promote phytoplankton growth and the absorption of carbon from the atmosphere near the environmentally-protected Galápagos Islands.

PUERTO AYORA, Galápagos, Ecuador, Jul 9 ’07 (Tierramérica).- Later this month a U.S. company, Planktos Inc., plans to dump 100 tons of iron dust into the ocean near Ecuador’s Galápagos Islands, despite opposition from environmental groups and marine scientists.This will be the first-ever commercial effort to reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, one of the main gases blamed for climate change, by using iron particles to create a 10,000-square-kilometer “plankton bloom”.

Planktos says the extra volume of these small, floating organisms will absorb large amounts of CO2 from the atmosphere and take it deep into the sea. And this method may be the fastest and most powerful tool to battle climate change.


“The currents will likely bring the bloom into the [Galápagos] Marine Reserve,” covering 133,000 sq. km, the world’s third largest marine reserve, says Washington Tapia, director of the Galápagos National Park, which includes the reserve. Continue reading

Aliens of the Deep Seas

350 Degrees Is Bathwater to These Animals
By Stephen Leahy


Hydrothermal vent

PUERTO AYORA, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador , Jul 5 (IPS) – Marine scientists returned to the Galapagos Islands this week to celebrate a discovery that Charles Darwin never dreamt of: bizarre animals that live in total darkness around active deep-sea volcanoes.

Thirty years ago, researchers found the first chimney spewing super-hot water — called a hydrothermal vent — 2,500 metres below the surface on the sea floor, with its own thriving  animal community. That life could prosper without sunlight or photosynthesis changed forever the very definition of what constitutes “life” on the Earth. And it opened a new window on the possibilities of life elsewhere in the universe.

After all, if a tiny shrimp can live in total darkness, under tonnes of pressure in a toxic chemical soup boiling away at 350 degrees C, why could not life take hold on some distant planetoid where conditions might not be so harsh?
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Greenest Ethanol Still Unproven

Sugarcane field Queensland Australia Copyright Renate Leahy 2004Cellulosic Ethanol – Clean but Worth Unproven
By Stephen Leahy

Jun 30 (IPS) – With biofuels being blamed for rising food prices and offering limited environmental benefits, diverse luminaries like former U.S. vice-president Al Gore and Microsoft’s Bill Gates are throwing their considerable support behind cellulosic ethanol, a second generation biofuel.

copyright Pembina InstituteThe big benefit cellulosic ethanol has is that virtually any plant material — left-over corn stalks, sawdust, wood chips, native perennials grown on marginal lands — could be turned into ‘green gold’, a low-emission fuel for the transportation sector.

“Cellulosic ethanol would reduce carbon emissions 88 percent over gasoline,” says Bruce Dale, a chemical engineer at the Biomass Conversion Research Laboratory at Michigan State University.
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